There Were Only Free Men and Slaves

In the middle of a crazy war where everyone has an opinion about its validity, I found some insight from the words of Michael Shaara in his book, The Killer Angels, about the battle at Gettysburg. Chamberlain’s thoughts according to Shaara (p. 27):

This was the first place on earth where the man mattered more than the state. True freedom had begun here and it would spread eventually over all the earth. But it had begun here. The fact of slavery upon this incredibly beautiful new clean earth was appalling, but more even than that was the horror of old Europe, the curse of nobility, which the South was transplanting to new soil. They were forming a new aristocracy, a new breed of glittering men, and Chamberlain had come to crush it. But he was fighting for the dignity of man and in that way he was fighting for himself. If men were equal in America, all these former Poles and English and Czechs and blacks, then they were equal everywhere, and there was really no such thing as foreigner; there were only free men and slaves. And so it was not even patriotism but a new faith. The Frenchman may fight for France, but the American fights for mankind, for freedom; for the people, not the land.

In an era when people forget that freedom started in America, it’s important to remember the blood spilled for us. That courageous blood was spilled not just for a free America, but for a “new faith” that spread throughout the world.

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Religious Nutjobs

It’s increasingly difficult to vote for those with conservative values when there are very few people who represent them well. I read a NY Post article, Why Our Elites Fear Faith, about Washington’s problem with Sarah Palin’s faith:

Such a woman wouldn’t fit in Washington (nor would a man of equal faith). In the DC area (where I live), plenty of government-affiliated men and women regularly attend a church or synagogue. But their appearances are perfunctory and well-mannered. Passionate faith is regarded as an embarrassment.

So, even though Sarah Palin isn’t someone I would choose to vote for (it always seems to be the lesser of the evils), I find myself increasingly astonished at how out of touch America is with those of us who are still religious. An example of that is found in this article by Matt Taibbi in the Rolling Stone where he talks about how Huckabee is a cool guy, but still a “nutjob”: “The troubling thing about Huckabee’s God rhetoric is that a man who is glad that Christians will “win” at Armageddon must be happy about the rest of us losing.”

Speaking from the perspective of a Christian who still believes in Armageddon, I don’t think anyone will be happy when others lose. A true Christian wants everyone to be happy, but knows that happiness only comes through righteous living. We urge others to choose good over evil but we don’t force anyone. And, despite what other people might say, we don’t even force our opinion on people. If you don’t want to read what I write, click away. If I’m saying something you’re not interested in, change the subject. Mormons may be guilty of a lot of things, but you’ll never find a time in our history when we’ve attempted to force our faith on others. Elder Maxwell explains that well in his talk on Patience.

My brothers and sisters, the longer I examine the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more I understand that the Lord’s commitment to free agency is very deep—indeed, much deeper than is our own. The more I live, the more I also sense how exquisite is His perfect love of us. It is, in fact, the very interplay of God’s everlasting commitment to free agency and His everlasting and perfect love for us which inevitably places a high premium upon the virtue of patience. There is simply no other way for true growth to occur.

So while I may want to force others to see my perspective, to feel what I feel, or to hope the same future I hope for, that would be exactly contrary to what I believe God’s plan is all about. My salvation will be worked out through obedience and faith in Jesus Christ despite what others choose, what others say about me, and what direction the world is headed. I know in the end God will win and greed, violence, hatred, terror, selfishness, and all other evils will lose. Since the world embodies these traits, James tells us, “know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

According to my view of religion, I am commanded to love my neighbor. I don’t choose who to love, either, because Christ tells us, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt 25:40). The difference between the fanatics who are blowing up buildings and the passionate faithful who are choosing to follow the teachings of Christ is whether they think they can decide who should be loved and who should be killed. That’s the very reason why the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades were so un-Christian.

So, call me a nutjob but don’t confuse with me the nutjobs who will kill people. As I said in a forum on wired.com:

And thus the faith (irrationality) vs. science (rationality) argument lives on.

You go on calling me irrational until one day, you become the extremist who wants to rid the world of all those who might possibly become an extremist by believing in something beyond what can be proven. By wanting to remove the threat, you become the threat.

The only Christian who becomes an extremist is one who, as George Sanayana put it (paraphrased), redoubles their effort when they forget their aim.

The aim of any Christian is to love God and their neighbor. I may not agree with you, but I don’t hate you. I also won’t accuse you of not using your brain. I appreciate the challenge to have faith in something beyond.

So, if Washington doesn’t appreciate the passionately faithful, they must think of religion more as a philosophy. And, if it’s a philosophy, then the government is accountable for carrying out good. Government can replace religion. Indeed, in the wake of the destruction of Hurricane Gustav, Obama said:

All across America there are quiet storms taking place. There are lives of quiet desperation. People who need just a little bit of help. Now, Americans are a self-reliant people, we’re an independent people. We don’t like asking somebody else to do what we can do ourselves but you know what we understand is that every once in a while somebody’s going to get knocked down. Every once in a while somebody’s going to go through some hard times. When we least expect it tragedy may strike. And what has always made this country great is the understanding that we rise and fall as one nation, that values and family, community and neighborhood, they have to express themselves in our government. Those are national values. Those are values that we all subscribe to. And so that the spirit that we extend today and in the days to come as we monitor what happens on the Gulf that’s the spirit that we’ve got to carry with us each and every day. That’s the spirit that we need in our own homes and it’s the spirit that we need in the White House. And that’s why I’m running for president of the United States of America.

Because if there’s a poor child out there, that’s my child. If there’s a senior that’s having trouble, that’s my grandparent. If there’s a guy who’s lost his job, that’s my brother. If there’s a woman out there without healthcare, that’s my sister. Those are the values that built this country. Those are the values we are fighting for.

Obama’s comments are very appealing. It’s almost Christ-like. I want a president who views the American people as brothers and sisters and cares for us. However, with socialism as with communism, government is the new God. That’s why I am turned off by Obama. The more candidates push government to replace God, the more wary I become. In fact, if government declares that a woman without healthcare is my sister and forces me to support her through (coercive) redistribution of wealth, then government is taking away freedom of choice. I believe in the words of the prophet Nephi, that men are free to choose liberty (helping others) or death (selfishness). Please don’t take away my liberty to serve and support others. I have no desire to take away people’s liberty to call me a nutjob.

My Prediction About the Economy

In 2005, I thought a great deal about the economy since I was working as a financial adviser and seriously considering the way I managed my own account. We were looking into refinancing our home to get an interest-only loan where we could save the difference between our minimum payment and what we were paying with the 30-year fixed.

Below is a portion of an email I wrote my mom.


September 26, 2005

Mom,
I’m concerned about the economy and I think we’re in for it in the next few years. I’ve been gathering some information from economists. There are many reasons why our economy could be in for a serious recession or even a depression:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8839539/page/1
1. High cost of fuel – cost of fuel increases cost to travel, ship goods, just about everything is dependent on it.
2. Overpriced real estate – http://www.stock-market-crash.net/housing-bubble.htm – The problem with this bubble is that people are buying the biggest home they can afford with the lowest rate they can get – interest only. When rates go up, they won’t be able to afford their payments and there’s a possibility that many people could foreclose around the same time
3. Weak dollar/increased foreign debt
4. Personal savings is at 0%. People are saving nothing. At a time when rates are low and people are barely able to afford payments, they should be preparing to pay for increased rates – higher mortgages, higher car payments.
5. Baby boomers are retiring. One famous market predictors says that when baby boomers retire, they will pull their money out of stocks and put it in lower-risk investments, such as bonds and money markets. This is predicted to cause the value of the assets in the market to drop. http://www.stock-market-crash.net/book/prophecy.htm and http://www.frbsf.org/econrsrch/wklyltr/wklyltr98/el98-20.html. [The financial services company I work for] believes Harry Dent’s prediction:
http://www.fpanet.org/journal/articles/1998_Issues/jfp0898-art18.cfm – a major depression beginning in 2008 or 2009.
6. Natural disasters only make our troubles worse and quicken the pace of trouble in the economy.

Why Uberous Hubris?

Why did I name my blog such a funny name? My intention was to point out the mistakes men make when we think we have it all figured out. There’s a verse in Isaiah (55:6-10) that says:

6 Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

So, while my original intent was to point out other people’s hubris, I realize that many of the decisions I make are based on my own perception (on Earth), which is nowhere near that of God’s (in Heaven). I’m guilty of hubris, no doubt, but my intentions are such that I hope to point out differences between what God has revealed through prophets and what man is doing despite the warnings. This post is also a caveat to what I’m posting next, since I hope I don’t come across proud.

Funny Description of Mac Users (from a Slashdotter)

Someone on Slashdot suggested that the Mac personality be represented in the new MS ads. “The family having a son who’s into emo music, dresses in women’s jeans, is bicurious and self-obsessed in a flood of his own drama should do nicely.”

Perception is reality. Apple has definitely appealed to a certain personality type and the nerdy engineer (Slashdotter) isn’t it.

Silas Smith and Mountain Meadows

Silas Sanford Smith

I recently discovered that an ancestor, Silas S. Smith, was a valuable witness to the occurrences leading up to the Mountain Meadows massacre:

Know George A. Smith; saw him in August of 1857 at Parowan and traveled with him through the southern settlements, returning with him to Cedar Springs, Millard County. George A. Smith, in his speeches, referred to the necessity of saving grain and not feeding it to horses or stock; he disapproved of selling it for any such use. Heard nothing said to discourage the sale of provisions to emigrant trains for food. Witness camped at Corn Creek and found the Arkansas train in camp there on arrival. Some of them came over to witness’ fire and simply made inquiries. Nothing special was said. One of the party asked if the Indians would be likely to eat the flesh of an ox that lay dead near camp. Some said that they probably would.

Two days after, came to Beaver, passing the emigrants at Indian Creek, six or seven miles from here. Took supper with the emigrants there. Four days after this the emigrants passed through the town where witness lives, thirty miles south, and camped there. Spoke to some of the party; saw the leader; heard him called Mr. Fancher. Duke’s party followed several days after. They got into trouble with the Indians near Beaver and witness was sent over with ten men by Col. Dame, who called at his house to request witness to go to the relief of the emigrants. Reached Beaver at night, and in the morning found the train corraled and a rifle pit dug for their protection. Sent a runner, who brought in the chief, and witness placated the wrath of the red men by a liberal distribution of beef. The Indians claimed that some of their braves had been shot by men belonging to the train, and they must wash out the offense in blood. Witness understood that his intervention had settled the difficulty. Had no further connection with the emigrant trains.

Traveled with George A. Smith from Parowan to Santa Clara, I50 miles. Held five or six meetings on the way. George A. Smith invited witness to accompany him. The object of his visit was to preach to the people to lay up grain for their future support. Col. Johnston’s army was then approaching Utah. Heard nothing said against allowing emigrant trains to pass through the country.

It’s amazing how connected my ancestor was to this sad incident. Since I don’t have all the right words to say how I feel about this, I’ll quote the feelings of Elder Dallin H. Oaks from his interview with Helen Whitney for the PBS documentary The Mormons:

As a fourth- or fifth-generation Mormon growing up in Utah—but not in the area where the Mountain Meadow Massacre happened—I have learned about that tragic episode, and my heart has gone out to the descendants of those who perpetrated that atrocity and to the relatives of those who suffered it. I can only imagine the kind of pain that comes from contemplating the involvement of those that you love in such a tragic episode in the history of the West, so unexplainable. I have no doubt on the basis of what I have studied and learned that Mormons were prime movers in that terrible episode and participated in killing. What a terrible thing to contemplate, that the barbarity of the frontier and the conditions of the Utah War, whatever provocations were perceived to have been given, would have led to such an extreme episode, such an extreme atrocity perpetrated by members of my faith. I pray that the Lord will comfort those that are still grieved by it and I pray that He can find a way to forgive those who took such a terrible action against human beings.

Double-standards

My brother, Steve, and I recently had the following email conversation:


Steve: I thought you would like this article titled “What is a ‘Windfall’ Profit?” …are we still a free market economy in the U.S.? http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121780636275808495.html?mod=opinion_main_review_and_outlooks

Ryan: This article is really good, and makes me really mad. Bravo to Exxon for having an efficient business. If this actually goes through, I will be even more disillusioned with Congress and the government.

Steve: Are the politicians really this stupid or do they just have a different agenda all together? Here is another wsj article that highlights how flawed Obama’s “Energy Plan” really is, it is titled “the Green Hornet”. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121797838304214973.html?mod=opinion_main_review_and_outlooks

Ryan: I don’t think politicians are that stupid. They choose policy based on what will get them (re-)elected. They bank on the uninformed, look what it’s done for Al Gore. Even if human-caused carbon is affecting global warming, he makes outrageous claims and continues to be excessive in his personal life. Bruce Hafen talks about this world of double-mindedness in his article in BYU magazine this month:
http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=2232 – “We live in a society that seems to have no higher aim than its own indulgent satisfactions.”


His full quote was:

I saw a billboard in Utah recently: “Modesty has never been sexier.” Talk about double-mindedness. We live in a society that seems to have no higher aim than its own indulgent satisfactions.

Elder Hafen’s insight is helpful. He goes on to write:

Today’s flood of pornography usually results from overindulgence. But note this irony: Alma told his son, “Bridle all your passions.” Why? So “that ye may be filled with love” (Alma 38:12). Pornography addictions can destroy marriages, shattering the true romantic dream of eternal love. Fake love can destroy real love. What a cheap and dirty trick! And worse, yielding to porn is a classic example of touching the unclean thing, of refusing to deny oneself of ungodliness. This double-mindedness has consequences: we cannot then be perfected in Christ—not because He lacks the power but because we lack the discipline. Thank heaven, repentance can restore discipline.

What we see in today’s world of hubris is that people do whatever they want on a personal level, indulge desires, unbridle passions, and think they’re free. But in the long run they’ve sold their joy for nothing more than a “mess of pottage” (Gen. 25:29–34)—something pleasurable and satisfying in the short term for something joyful and liberating in the long term.